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I am designing a Business dashboard (Financial Product). All info is reachable in a single scroll and primary insights are visible without scroll.

As some information below the fold the customer wants to regig the dashboard so that there is no scroll. He cited that as a general UI/UX rule that dashboards should not have scroll. I countered showing him some really efficient dashboard which have a scroll.

But as in most UX scenarios It can be argued any which way. So I wanted to get a general perception on scrolling in dashboards.

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If a scrolling doesn't introduce any negative UX to non-scrollers, then it is not any worse (but may be even better) than non scrollable page. See bit.ly/TtK1p0 .There are also much of research on the subject if you google it. I personally, don't believe in fold-no-fold paradigm. –  Bartosz Rakowski Nov 5 '12 at 7:22
    
"should not scroll" is contrary to the basic premise of how most every web page works, so no, that's not a general UI/UX rule at all. If anything, it's a UI/UX myth (See: uxmyths.com/post/654047943/myth-people-dont-scroll ) –  DA01 Jan 20 '13 at 20:05
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6 Answers

The reason some dashboards need to be scroll-free is that it is important for them to present information with a mere glance.

The best example is perhaps the one that gave dashboards its name - the car driving dashboard. You can have the driver do any action before the relevant information is available, and it can be deciphered in a blink of an eye.

Back to your finance dashboard - is your dashboard going to be displayed on a status monitor in a high-performance commerce room? If yes, then a scroll is a killer - the user would want her information just by looking at it from across the room. Most of the time you wouldn't even know where to find the mouse under the huge LCD monitor.

If on the other hand, as I guess, your dashboard is intended for relaxed managers sitting comfortably at their computer (be it a desktop or tablet), then there is no problem with scrolling. These users can afford the extra second that it takes to see the extra information.

Hope you can bring this reasoning to your customer, and think together whether scrolling is tolerated.

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Your example of the status monitor made me think of a situation where the screen is projected in a meeting - where people in an interest in the content aren't physically able to scroll. That makes fold breaking bad. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Jan 21 '13 at 11:22
    
in deed, the dashboard would not be very suited for this task. The presenter of such a meeting should simply take screenshots of the dashboard, and put them on a Powerpoint slide... –  Dvir Adler Jan 22 '13 at 12:47
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There are two main things to consider when deciding if you should scroll:

  1. Will scrolling hide information that is vital to see immediately when the page is loaded?

  2. Will scrolling make it impossible to see two or more areas of the page at the same time that depend on being seen together to be useful? (forcing the user to scroll, memorize, then scroll back)

It sounds like factor 1 isn't an issue in this case, if factor 2 isn't either, then you should be fine with scrolling.

Other options to consider:

  • scroll inside sections of the page, independently of the page. That way if page area A must be visible at the same time as a long list of data in page area B, you can have only B scroll while A remains visible.
  • use pagination or tabs inside individual sections of the page to show more information.
  • use expanding UI elements, like hide/show or accordions, to show only a summary of the data in a lengthy section of the page, and allow the user to expand it when they want to see more detail.
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Provided the dashboard is being viewed on a device that can scroll (as opposed to say a kiosk without a UI) yes, scrolling is fine if you need it. Many studies have shown that users scroll just fine. The simplest argument is to just ask people if the use Amazon or Facebook or the like. ;)

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My short answer is Yes. scrolling is acceptable.

The reason being Dashboard's are nothing but distilled set of information which are also known as Key Performance Indicators (KPI's). Now you place your KPI's on your dashboard in the order that is being most used and important. Idea here is to place (as you correctly said) these primary KPI's at a position where user don't have to scroll hence primary KPI's are quickly and effectively consumed.

However depending on the domain/product you may still have secondary KPI's which also need some place in your dashboard, which could be better served below the primary KPI's. And for that if scroll is necessary why not? Profile page on this site Profile page on this site is a great example.

Keep in mind dashboards can become unusable very quickly. So it's very important that you correctly identify and prioritize KPI's which serves the purpose while it won't overload the Dashboard with lot of content.

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Since you mention a financial application dashboard, I thought I would mention that I briefly spent some time in a small quantitative trading environment a couple of years ago. The traders each had six to eight screens mounted in a grid-like setup (each trader had his own desk with dedicated screens). I got the impression that they would rather just add an extra screen with dedicated information, than have a single screen with tabs or scrolling. If they needed specific information, they knew which screen to look at. Notifications (both visual and audible) and information seeking speed were key in their day-to-day use of the system.

As to dashboards in general, I assume you are familiar with Stephen Few's work? I did a quick search, and noticed that he also advocates NOT scrolling for dashboards in his white paper: Common Pitfalls in Dashboard Design.

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Yes People do scrolling, but you should make it hidden scrolling,by making the dashboard accordion style and open the first line by default, and in the title of each line show a small summary about it's section. see the image to more understanding:accordion style

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